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When Congressmen Attack – UPDATED With Full Video

Mike Flynn at Big Government is out with a guerrilla video of one constituents discussion, if you can call it that, with North Carolina Congressman Bod Ethridge:

Maybe it is my Catholic upbringing, but I’ve always been cursed with a bit too much empathy. It is often difficult to witness people bearing the full weight of the consequences of their decisions, even when it is richly deserved. (And, in the case of House Democrats few have ever been more deserving of reaping everything they’ve sown.) We’re human, after all, and witnessing people on the cusp of realizing that they’ve lost everything can be difficult.

Last week, Democrat Congressman Bod Etheridge (D-NC2) attended a fundraiser headlined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was asked by some students on the street whether he supported the “Obama Agenda.” He didn’t take it well.

Here’s the video:

Flynn concludes:

Let’s recap what we saw on this video. A sitting Congressman–a presumed living extension of James Madison and other founding fathers–was asked on a public street whether he supported the President’s agenda. His response was to hit away a video camera and assault a student. The age of Pericles this ain’t.

Well, yes and no.

First of all, it’s quite apparent that the video has been edited so we don’t necessarily know what happened between the time that the two first met and when the scuffle happened.

Second, sticking a camera in somebody’s face and demanding they answer a question is hardly a form of reasonable political debate, and perhaps not the best way for a constituent to interact with his or her Congressman. It’s no more a form of debate than the Town Hall protesters who showed up for no purpose other than to yell down those they disagreed with last summer.

It does appear that Ethridge may have over-reacted, but this was clearly an ambush interview and not some citizen on the street.

Flynn concludes:

It is going to be a long, hot summer. But, you’ve been given a target. Act accordingly

Expect to see more “amateur” videos like this one.

Update: Stephen Gutowski posts the full, unedited video from both cameras that were used to film this:

After watching this, Etheridge’s behavior surely does not appear to be at all justifiable even though it’s clear that these two students were engaging in what is often called “ambush journalism.” It’s a tactic that has been used by both sides of the political aisle, and one would think that Congressman and Senators would know how to react in such situations at this point. Etheridge’s conduct is inexcusable.

Update 2: Since there appears to be some confusion in the comments, let me summarize my opinion about this whole mess.

Yes, Etheridge’s conduct was inexcusable. Legally, it probably does constitute assault, at least in the civil context. At the same time, I don’t really find anything admirable about the ambush journalism that people like these two self-proclaimed students engaged in. It’s a tactic that has been used by both left wing sites like Think Progress and right wing sites, like Andrew Brietbart’s Big Journalism/Big Government. It’s intention is to provoke a politician to do something embarrassing, and it’s juvenile.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. TL says:

    I think traditionally this blog has an anti-messy government attitude and strikes most often for the “civilized and rational” debate, which has gotten us to this point in politics and economics and that you serve that function well. Let me suggest this: when legislators were counted on to generally do their jobs, provide some understanding favors to contributors and the like there was no real resistance to their antics. When, however, they have used their power to purchase banks, automobile companies, threaten to nationalize oil companies, rack up trillions and trillions of debt against the will of the people (Rasmussen still has repeal of Obamacare at about 58%), have lied repeatedly about these programs, when they take criticism and are expected to answer questions for their actions, they respond like this, I think it is time for the people, just prior to when we allow these clowns to turn us into Greece, get in their face a little. Unlike the SEIU, they didn’t come after the guy with clubs.

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  2. KD says:

    May have over-reacted? Are you serious?

    That you would not condemn the congressman’s actions, on its face, edited or not, is remarkable.

    NO MATTER WAHT THE STUDENTS MAY HAVE SAID, this congressman needed to take the high ground, turn the other cheek, and walk away. He is supposedly, after all, a “grown up” with a high ethical standard (check out his web site).

    Here is the test for the author of this blog: What if this were Sarah Palin and a female student? Would your blog read the same way?

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  3. NO MATTER WAHT THE STUDENTS MAY HAVE SAID, this congressman needed to take the high ground, turn the other cheek, and walk away. He is supposedly, after all, a “grown up” with a high ethical standard (check out his web site).

    Except, of course, that the tactic of the ambush interviewer is to keep following the target until they goad them into doing something stupid. Which is what happened here.

    I don’t condone the Congressman’s actions, but there are two sides to every story.

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  4. D.C. Russell says:

    I blog on local politics and am probably the second most read political blogger in the district represented by my Congresswoman. A number of local elected officials (or the same party) subscribe to e-mails of my blog posts, and I receic=ve frequent feedback from them and from candidates for office.

    Time and again, I have tried the “civilized and rational approach” of writing to the Congresswoman and to specific members of her staff asking for her stand on specific issues.

    I have NEVER received a substantive reply. The only reply I ever received was a promise, well over a year ago and never fulfilled, that I would eventually receive an answer to my questions about Amtrak support (the Congresswoman serves on Amtrak’s oversight committee).

    I’m tempted to try an ambush interview, not to make the Congresswoman look stupid, but simply to try to get an answer from her. She obviously will never answer me as long as I continue taking the high ground.

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  5. AllenS says:

    “Except, of course, that the tactic of the ambush interviewer is to keep following the target until they goad them into doing something stupid. Which is what happened here.”

    That’s nonsense Mr. Mataconis. The Congressman could have answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and kept walking. Instead Etheridge chose to get physical. Watch the video again, Etheriddge wasn’t followed at all, he immediately got mad when questioned.

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  6. NealDewing says:

    It does seem from the videos that Etheridge went overboard. If he was frustrated with them he could have said so, and made a bad soundbite. But putting hands on the student is worse for him than if he gave unqualified support to the Obama agenda.

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  7. Steve Plunk says:

    Doug, Your defense of this congressman is a waste of time. He was asked a question on camera, not goaded, not followed, and not provoked in any manner. It’s clear to me he is like most elected officials and government employees these days, self proclaimed royalty not beholding to the commoners.

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  8. [...] Lighthouse, Weekly Standard, The Other McCain, Pundit & Pundette, Liberty Pundits Blog, Outside the Beltway, Weasel Zippers, RedState, JammieWearingFool, Cold Fury, Sister Toldjah, Gawker, Riehl World View [...]

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  9. Ted Pearson says:

    Doug Mataconis said: “I don’t condone the Congressman’s actions, but there are two sides to every story.”
    I say: Yup, two sides.
    Side one; The recorded visual truth of Etheridge’s assault.
    Side two; The fantastic diatribe of an anus slurping lawyer.
    Go back to spinning your weiner, idiot. The case is closed.

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  10. Steve Plunk says:

    Ted, Come on. We try to be civil. We may disagree with Doug but that’s no way to make a point.

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  11. Ted,

    Did you bother to read what I wrote in the update to the post ?

    Just curious

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  12. [...] noted by The Atlantic is a post from blogger Doug Mataconis who declares that “sticking a camera in somebody's face and demanding they answer a question is [...]

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  13. anon says:

    So when the interview is an “ambush” interview, Congressman have the personal right to inflict physical violence on the journalist?

    Where, pray tell, is there an “ambush interview” exception to the constitution where Congressman can personally inflict physical violence against journalists?

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  14. So when the interview is an “ambush” interview, Congressman have the personal right to inflict physical violence on the journalist?

    Where, exactly, did I say that ?

    Don’t bother looking, because I didn’t.

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  15. Scott D. Small says:

    “It does appear that Ethridge may have over-reacted, but this was clearly an ambush interview and not some citizen on the street.”

    Mr. Mataconis,

    Are you suggesting the person attempting to question the esteemed congressman is in fact NOT a citizen? If so, I wonder how his citizenship status would matter.

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  16. Are you suggesting the person attempting to question the esteemed congressman is in fact NOT a citizen? If so, I wonder how his citizenship status would matter.

    No Scott, I’m suggesting that these two gentlemen went to the event in question with the intention of provoking a response out of Etheridge or some other Member of Congress that would be YouTube worthy.

    They clearly weren’t just constituents from Etheridge’s district there to ask a question of their Congressman

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  17. Chris Mallory says:

    If a congressman doesn’t like the way his employer is asking questions of him, said congressman is free to go back to selling used cars.

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  18. Chris McMullen says:

    Oh please, defending this Congressman is such a crock. I’m accosted daily by pan handlers — one just has to ignore them and keep walking — which is all this jerk Ethridge needed to do.

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  19. Dren says:

    This Representative is easily provoked -his threshold seems to be lower than Son of Sam’s on a hot day.

    How in the world do you identify with that?

    The Congressman looks to be backing the kid towards the wall <i.before the kid tries to get more evidence by filming in the space that the Congressman has breached.

    Here’s another perspective-as the adult both you and the Congressman have a greater responsibility to act appropriately-since supposedly you would both have the advantage of learned experience.

    Secondly-with greater power-which the Congressman has been given by the electorate comes even more responsibility-he has an even greater duty to act reasonably because he represents not only himself but his constituents when in Washington.

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  20. Stickeenotes says:

    Actually, if memory serves, the Congressman’s actions constitute misdemeanor battery charges, since he actually did make contact. Assault is simply the threat of violence, while actual threatening physical contact constitutes battery. The congressmen offered no excuse for his actions in his press conference and there is no excuse. A public figure is subject to this kind of treatment. If journalists get a defended for moving in next door to Sarah Palin then surely two kids with flip cams deserve to be defended for asking a congressman on a public street if he supports President Obama’s agenda.

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  21. Deborah says:

    “It’s intention is to provoke a politician to do something embarrassing”
    Exactly, and that’s exactly what they did, and exactly what Ethridge did. Mission accomplished, no sympathy for Ethridge. He’s a big boy, he’s on the career politician gravy train, he should have known better. Maybe he was drunk.

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  22. physics geek says:

    It’s intention is to provoke a politician to do something embarrassing, and it’s juvenile.

    Former Senator George Allen could not be reached for macaca comment.

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  23. Allan Bazar says:

    Congrats on having made a reasoned response to the hysteria. Even a Congressman has an reasonable expectation of privacy while walking on a public street–even with respect to so-called journalists.

    To my eye this was as much an assault upon the Congressman as on the insufferable birdbrain who would not give him the courtesy of a response to his question as to who it was who had entered his personal space and quite literally stuck a camera in his face.

    How sad that our public discourse sinks to this level. The hypocrisy exposed of many of your commenters is just as sad.

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